The Hague

Bijenkorf holiday windows (Or: 2020 edition)

Here are some of the holiday windows Bijenkorf (a high-end retail store) here in The Hague. Bijenkorf is Dutch for beehive.

This one is Sinterklaas themed (you can see the music in backend and his staff in front of the music sheet). The white letters that are almost impossible to see say Muziek dat verbindt – the music that brings us together.
The mannequin was also slowly rotating. The white letters say Feest van samenzijn – Feast of being together (or a similar translation).
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Just lights and a sign (Or: No Royal Christmas Fair this year)

A few days ago I walked past the Lange Voorhout, a street with a rich history that spans back to the 12th and 13th centuries (Wikipedia). It is also home to the Royal Christmas Fair and one of the homes of the Rrrollend food festival (the other being Malieveld).

Of course there is no Royal Christmas Fair this year. But there are a few signs out as you can see above. The city also added the usual white Christmas lights to give it a holiday feel. (You can just barely see the light strings in the trees on the left of the photo.)

Balloons as an alternative to fireworks: ‘Still nice to pop’ from news1.com. (Or try the Dutch version of this article over at rtlneiuws.nl.)

1987 Ferrari pulled from Amsterdam canal to appear in Netflix production from nltimes.nl. But it is all just for show – the article says it will be scrapped afterwards.

And it is unfortunately still busy today due to Black Friday shopping (where deals seem to last all weekend): Drukte in winkelstraten, in meerdere steden winkels eerder dicht from nos.nl. It is busy in the shopping streets, with many cities closing stores early, around 16:00, give or take. The Hague sent out a tweet at 12:30 today saying it was too busy in the city centre and people should stay away, but for the moments stores in The Hague are closing at their normal times.

(a pretty picture of Bijenkorf’s winter decorations…)
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Black Friday in The Netherlands (Or: Early morning lines)

Black Friday has become popular in the last 5 years in this country. I know it doesn’t make much sense, but who doesn’t love a good deal? (Although whether something is a good deal is questionable at times.) But with corona this year, it was a bit weird to see the city centre so busy.

Here was the line for Uniqlo, a recently opened Japanese clothing store:

This photo was taken just before 10:00, so right before the store opened. I was lucky that I was just passing through and could use the side streets to avoid this area. When I passed the edge of the city centre later in the afternoon it was almost impossible to see through the mass of people shopping here at Grote Marktstraat (denhaag.com, English site). Are the discounts really that important?

Most NL residents don’t care about Black Friday from nltimes.nl. You could have fooled me.

Still, other cities had it much worse: Burgemeester Aboutaleb sluit winkels in centrum Rotterdam om ‘dramatische drukte‘ from nos.nl. The mayor of Rotterdam (Aboutaleb) closed all stores in the center of Rotterdam because of the ‘massive crowds’. He closed them at 19:10, about 50 minutes earlier than they would be required to close due to corona regulations. Amsterdam and Rotterdam were quite busy all day though (with both mayors issuing warnings to avoid certain areas of their cities early in the afternoon). According to reports the crowd levels were more manageable in Utrecht and The Hague.

Note: the above article does have a lovely picture of the “Koopgoot” shopping area. The nickname “Koopgoot” translates to “Shopping gutter”, owing to the fact that it is lower than the street next to it, although still an open area. It’s a lovely area. Just not on Black Friday in 2020…

Happy weekend, everyone!

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Temporary fixes (Or: Amendment to coronavirus regulations sign)

At the moment the Netherlands is under an additional layer of coronavirus restrictions, with additional community areas closed like libraries, theaters, cinemas, zoos, theme parks, etc. These additional restrictions will automatically expire on Wednesday (article in English from nltimes.nl) because there has been some improvement in hospitalizations.

Another restriction that is about to expire group sizes outside are currently limited to three (instead of the usual four). The Hague found an interesting way of getting this temporary amendment across:

That’s right. A nice big X of black tape where it says you can only be outside in a group of four. It works, I guess…

In other, Sinterklaas news: as you may or may not know, the subject of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete; link to English Wikipedia) is quite controversial because traditionally the character was portrayed by a white person, in blackface, with black curly hair, red lips and huge golden earrings. You can see the issue there…

But in recent years the trend (at least nationally) has been to have Black Petes with chimney soot on their faces, no curly hair, etc. The national children’s news program Sinterklaasjournaal already adapted this a few years back. The changes have sadly been much slower on a local level (if you remember from an earlier blog post this week, there’s a national Sinterklaas but also a local Sinterklaas for each city).

Dutch libraries are taking another step towards the future by banning all children’s books which depict a black-faced Black Pete, either removing them from their shelves or not buying them in the first place. Read more at the guardian.com: Will Dutch library ban on ‘Black Pete’ books spell end for ‘racist’ festive tradition?

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Standing before closed doors (Or: The Hague library in corona times)

Libraries (and museums, theaters, cinemas, etc.) are currently closed in the Netherlands. It is part of an additional set of corona measures that the Dutch government has taken to lower the number of hospitalizations. (The government did provide an exception for libraries to be open for picking up reservations and book deliveries, but The Hague has chosen not to do this.)

I decided to take a photo of the sign at The Hague’s Central Library (Unfortunately we are temporarily closed). Boo!

But I am nothing if not prepared (having heard the rumors of an impending closure on Sunday evening):

Partially because I told myself that if I thought another library closure was coming I would check out additional books. And partially because I don’t expect these extra measures to be lifted after two weeks – even though the prime minister said it would automatically be lifted after that time.

Unfortunately the balance of Dutch versus English books is a bit skewed (1 novel in Dutch versus 4 novels in English). But that happens when you go to the library during a work break and some of the books you wanted to check out aren’t on the shelf. I had to quickly grab some backups after consulting my Goodreads list.

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Swans and ducks by Koekamp (Or: November has arrived)

Yesterday I went to Malieveld, the first time in a few months. The last time I was there it was summer and oh so nice and warm… but I chose to avoid it for a while because of the carnival taking up most of the area.

On the way to Malieveld I passed by Koekamp, a small park with deer, swan and ducks. This time I saw more swans then I ever have:

In the background joggers and cyclists rush past. I also saw a swan chasing after two poor ducks for whatever reason. Maybe they stole its lunch?

It’s definitely fall now. Leaves are falling off the trees in buckets, with a cold breeze and spitting rain (motregen in Dutch).

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Attack of the birds (Or: That poor tree)

The birds were back this afternoon, and this time they stayed for almost an hour. Fun fact: it actually sounds more like a low, distant rumble when you have hundreds of birds chirping outside your back door.

I don’t think you can fit any additional birds in that tree. And that was actually the smaller tree. The birds also claimed a much larger tree next to this one as their own, but it was less photogenic.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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At least we still have coffee (Or: Sign in The Hague)

Check out this sign (just outside De Passage shopping area):

You do have to admire the drawing skills. Better than I can do, that’s for sure. And of course I am writing this while drinking coffee. ☕️

So, minor updates:

  • Weekly numbers for week 43 (21 – 27 October) are available at rivm.nl in English
  • we are in the middle of our ‘partial lockdown’ (which is now planned to last until at least the beginning of December, article in English from nltimes.nl)
  • we have seen a few days where the number of cases have only increased slightly, but I don’t trust it yet. We won’t see the effect of the partial lockdown until the end of this week at the earliest
  • For the most part things still look fairly negative, with one bright spot being that the R number is now around 1.16 occurring to the most recent reliable data).

And, expected news: my coworkers and I received an email today saying that working from home has been extended until April 2021. Previously it was January 2021.

On the one hand, that’s crazy. On the other hand, after seeing how the last few months have gone, I don’t think any of us expected to be back in the office in January.

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Autumn leaves in The Hague (Or: A visit to the Binnenhof)

After what felt like three straight weeks of rain, we finally had a few (relatively) dry weeks. However, autumn definitely snuck in while no one was looking.

This photo is of the Binnenhof, exiting out onto the Plein (where the statue of Willem van Oranje is, and where demonstrators love to congregate outside the Tweede Kamer). That’s the Dutch House of Representatives. The only thing that is missing is red and orange leaves, to bring out the autumnal colors even more.

I am looking forward to an extra hour of sleep tomorrow morning. Daylight savings ends. Bring on the even darker mornings… we’re working from home anyway.

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Lazy weekend (Or: Games and books)

I’m all in favor of a lazy weekend myself. Even if the reason it is so lazy is because we are trying to stay inside more often. Breakfast for Marco and I was brioche bread (a type of sweet bread). I toasted mine and added peanut butter, and Marco had one with the more traditional Dutch butter and hagelslag. That’s chocolate sprinkles for any American readers.

I finished a few of the books I was reading: The Institute by Stephen King. It was pretty good – just the right amount of horror for an October read. Although it reminded me a lot of his other book The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Both main characters are kids, and both suffer a lot of mental and physical pain. (I admitted to Marco that I was skipping ahead a bit at times just to get a broad sense of where the storyline was before heading back to where I was.)

I also finished the other perfect-for-October horror read The Graveyard Apartment by Japanese author Mariko Koike. It was much slower pace and there were a few elements or character actions that took me out of the story. But I think the characters will stick with me for awhile.

Gaming wise – I’m wrapping up an Xbox game called Coffee Talk. It’s a visual novel by an Indonesian gaming studio. It is about exactly what it sounds like – you’re a barista who listens to others’ problems and makes coffee for them while you do. I feel like this game has taught me a lot of coffee recipes… Cinnamon ginger coffee, anyone?

Oh, and the resuable face masks I got from Uniqlo yesterday are great. They fit much better than the ones I had before and the fabric does indeed feel much more breathable.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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